Vendors and visitors had mixed feelings toward the first ever “Americana” celebration in Old Sacramento.
For the last 14 Labor Day weekends, Old Sacramento hosted “Gold Rush Days,” a 3-day event where visitors experienced life in the mid-1800’s. Everything from horse drawn carriages, period music, reenactments, and dirt roads were set up to give people a feeling of Sacramento nostalgia. The event usually requires 100,000 gallons of water and 200 tons of dirt to pave the asphalt, and host the annual gold panning events. However, because of the severe drought conditions, organizers cancelled Gold Rush Days 2014.
“Old Sacramento already has that look, but when you put the dirt streets, it really looks like an old west town, so visually, I’m sure that’s what people miss the most,” Mike Testa of the Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau said.
As a last minute replacement, the Sacramento Convention and Visitors bureau and the City of Sacramento decided to host “Americana,” a much smaller scale event without all the waterworks. Organizers only had to spend $30,000 to prepare for Americana, as opposed to the usual $150,000 for Gold Rush Days. Many people noticed that there was a dip in attendance, and for businesses, that meant a dip in sales.
“People wearing the old time costumes… We have no re-enactors out there,” Jeri Price, owner of O’Grady’s Old Time Photos said. “People are not in the mood. So far, on all three days, we are half down compared to what we did a year ago.”
However, the scaled down version of the event was actually a blessing to some. For the first time, instead of dirt, organizers asked area car clubs to dress up the asphalt with classic cars. Car club members from all around the area showcased their shiny collector vehicles for free, in exchange for adoration from the crowds.
“To us, that was great,” Raymon Vela, member of Duke’s Car Club said. “We think these old cars that you see here, ARE Old Sacramento.”
Organizers reminded everyone though, that this alternative event is exactly that- an alternative.
“This event was never meant to be permanent,” Testa said. “It was meant to help get us through this year, and we’re optimistic we’re going to have a very wet winter, and we’ll have Gold Rush Days next year.”
To that, many small businesses were thrilled. “That would be great!” Price said.
However, now that the car clubs go the experience the “Oos” and “Ahhs” of the Americana audience, they suggested incorporating their flare to the old time favorite event.
I don’t want to take away the Gold Rush, because I like that,” Vela said. “I really enjoy that. But this is also something spectacular.”